New game acquisition: Ultimate Board Game Collection (PSP)

Yesterday, I traded in two NES games (Mickey Mousecapade and Pinball) and two Gameboy Advance games (a pair of Yu-Gi-Oh titles). These were garbage and thus, not worth much. But that’s okay, I didn’t want much.

I decided to grab Ultimate Board Games Collection for the PSP.

Yeah, I know, “Board games? Really?” Well, bite me, I like board games. Some of them, anyway. This collection included 20 digital renditions of classics, including Go, which was what caught my attention. I wouldn’t mind marking territory and scoring ataris while on the road, so I sprang for it.

The collection so far is pretty good. It’s got a decent selection, including public-domain versions of board games you played as a kid (Connect Four is called “Quattro” here, and while I haven’t played it, there’s a game called “Naval Battle” which I’m guessing is just Battleship), and every game has a tutorial–although cryptically, you access it by clicking the head in the lower-left corner during the actual game (rather than, say, there simply being a “tutorial” option on the main menu). It usually does an adequate job explaining how the game is played, using both a text explanation and a helpful graphic.

So I played Go first of all, and right off the bat found one thing to be disappointed about: the only board size options are 9×9 and 13×13 (a standard Go board is 19×19). I’m not sure if the bigger size has to be unlocked, or if they simply didn’t include it because of the PSP’s small screen size or something. Anyway, I do feel a bit let down, as it makes the experience less authentic.

Now, Go is a game that relies a lot on intuitive thinking, and for this reason computer AIs are normally not good at it–this game is no exception. Even when I set the game to “hard” (which does nothing but remove all handicaps) the computer plays like an idiot. It seems to think that the idea is to put stones wherever he can, which leads to him cluttering up territory and making needless sacrifices, which means its always an easy win. The good news is, apparently I can play this game two-player with anyone who happens to own a PSP, and they don’t need to own their own copy of the game. So ideally, I’d be able to find a human player somewhere. I believe I read somewhere that you can also play by trading the PSP itself between players.

So I skipped on over to the other games. There was a game called Gomoku (essentially Tic-Tac-Toe, but its five in a row and you play with Go stones) which… well, either I really suck, or the computer is much better at this game. Seriously, it seems like the comp always gets into a position of “no matter what you do next, human, I’ll win on the next turn!” I’ve managed to beat it three times… and it won five.

Oddly enough, there is a 3D Tic Tac Toe on this collection, and I always kick the computer’s ass at that.

Then I skipped around and looked at Mahjong. My dad used to play old computer versions of this all the time, and honestly it always frustrated me because I never understood the rules. Thank god for that built-in tutorial! Now that I understood how this game is actually played, I was able to somewhat enjoy it. Basically, in Mahjong you find pairs of matching tiles and remove them from the board, but there’s a catch: the matches have to be free on either the left or right. The idea is to clear the board, though usually what happens is you play to a point where there’s no more possible matches and the game just ends. I wonder if there’s some kind of superstition about this, like whoever actually clears the board will be blessed or something. This is normally a solitaire game, but there is a two-player mode on this collection, which seems to be just a race to see who can clear their board first. It also gives you a choice of different layouts, and tilesets that replace the Chinese iconography with blocks that look like they came from a children’s nursery.

That’s a thing about board games. A lot of them seem like they would actually be pretty complicated to set up and play if you were playing them for real. They almost demand to be played through a computer or a video game. It just is so convenient, saves so much time and effort. And (and this goes back to when I used to play collectible card games) there were no rules arguments–if the computer allows it, it goes.

So anyway… Kakeru… even with the help of the tutorial, I don’t understand this game. Then again, I’m not good at math. Didn’t even bother with some of the Sudoku and stuff on here. Tried Anagrams and the virtual Jigsaw puzzle (which lets you import photos, so technically you could use this to preserve that Jem and the Holograms puzzle you bought as a kid).

Last game I tried in my trial run was Reversi, a public-domain version of Othello (no relation to the Shakespeare play). It’s another black-versus-white game, except this time you’re trying to sandwich the enemy pieces between your own in order to win converts. (Incidentally, I once played a variant on the NES — the 7up Spot game–which was like Othello but with different rules: it was enemy pieces who were adjescent to your move that switched colors, not those who were sandwiched between two of your pieces. This made the game slightly easier, in my opinion. And no, this variant rule is not included in this collection, likely because it was invented by Virgin games–and they later recycled it as a puzzle in The 7th Guest… 7th Guest? 7up? I smell a conspiracy!) The computer is really good at this game, and I only managed to beat it once. I had a version of this on the NES and I was never very good at that, either.

So… first impressions are ultimately pretty good. Its a collection of classic board games, about three that I really like and the rest I can get used to or play when I need a break from fucking Ninja Gaiden stage 6-2 ARRRGH. I wish the Go game allowed a full-size board and had better AI, but I’m not gonna hold that against it. It was worth the trade-in.

Frustrations

Dunno if I’ll manage an entry this week, guys. Having one of those periods where I have a low tolerance for frustration so gaming isn’t too good for me right now.

I might liveblog a few episodes of Batman Beyond instead. Still considering.

Adventures of Lolo (NES)

A funny thing happened on the way to this blog entry. You see, I met a Yiddish sailor… okay, I’ll stop being silly.

This week I had intended to play and do a write-up on an obscure NES shooter called The Adventures of Dino Riki, but the more I played, the more I found out why it was obscure. It might end up being the first game I have to just give up on. Frustrated with that game, and being tired of reflex-testers in general, I decided to play a brain-tester instead. So I popped in Adventures of Lolo.

Before Lolo and Lala were hanging around with Kirby, they starred in their own games where generally, Lala always got kidnapped by a being called “The Great Devil” who, I guess, just liked to kidnap her. So Lolo goes to the Great Devil’s castle where he has to fight through floors upon floors of… puzzles.

In every level, Lolo has to get all the hearts, and then get whatever’s in the treasure chest (I assume its a magic stone, so let’s call it that). Once you get the magic stone, all the enemies disappear and the gate to the next level opens. But this is sometimes easier said than done. As I said, Adventures of Lolo does not test your reflexes (except in some levels), it tests your brain. The challenge is often in finding a way to get all the hearts and get to the Magic Stone without getting stuck or killed. There’s actually a “suicide” button (pressing select) in case you fuck up and render a room unsolvable. Don’t worry: while you only get five lives, continues are unlimited and always take you back to the exact room you were in, and passwords are only four letters long and again, unique to each room.

Incidentally, Lolo’s death animation is kinda funny.

It’s really hard to describe everything about the game without just giving everything away, and without sounding like an instruction manual. Suffice to say, everything you need to know is gradually introduced to you over the first couple of stages, and the game depends on you familiarizing yourself with its mechanics. A lot of the puzzle solutions depend on you understanding some nuance about the game design, and prey on you overlooking a small detail.

This game WILL test your brain. I’ve owned my personal copy since I was eight years old, but I remember I used to find it frustrating. At that age I was more into games like Mario, where you ran around killing enemies. Stomping on Goombas made sense to me, and solving puzzles just didn’t. My first victory over Adventures of Lolo came when I was like twenty, and it was in a marathon session which really tried my brain. By the time I beat it, I needed a couple of tylenol. That’s right, Lolo made me think so hard it gave me a headache.

It’s 2013 now, and does Lolo still give me headaches? Well, no–this time, I needed to take a nap! I wound up having this strange dream, where I was on a ship at night, and Bowser saw me hiding under a floorboard and tried to crush me, but the floorboard was strong enough to hold, but he wasn’t really trying to kill me, it was some sort of workout and he stopped to ask me something, and then me and my dad were in this weird antique shop, and my cat kept nudging me to wake me up so I forgot some things, but… yeah, lets just talk about Lolo some more, okay?

So with all the headache-causing and nap-inducing, this must be a terrible game, right?

Bite me. Adventures of Lolo is awesome. There’s just this rush you get when you finally work out the solution to the room. It’s like an endless series of “EUREKA!” moments, that make you feel so smart and accomplished. And I never resorted to a FAQ or a walkthru or a Let’s Play video, I solved this one entirely on my own. Go me!

Some people might complain that every level takes place in a brown castle chamber, or that there’s only one song that plays throughout the game (not counting menus, continue screens, the ending etc), but honestly, that shit never bothered me. In fact, I’d actually call the brown castle aesthetic a good thing, since a lot of the puzzles depend on you being familiar with the quirks and limitations of every type of obstacle and terrain, which naturally would fall apart if the aesthetics weren’t so uniform.

Really, my biggest problem with Adventures of Lolo is that it’s too short. Yes, too short. It took me only two hours to beat it this time, according to my DVD recorder, and when it was over, I wanted more.

Fortunately, there was in fact a Lolo 2 and a Lolo 3, and there were even more in Japan, including computer games with custom campaign editors. Hopefully I won’t be starving for long…

A NOTE: When I play most games, I usually stick to a “no credit spamming” rule (for non-shmuppers: Credit spamming is when you just keep using continues until you beat the game). But that’s for arcade games, in which sticking to those kind of rules helps improve your skills and reflexes and makes you better at the game. Adventures of Lolo isn’t that type of game–its simply, either you know the solution or you don’t. I don’t see what I would be proving by forcing myself to play a perfect run. So for this game, I credit-spammed like a boss.

So anyway, here’s the final level and the ending. I had intended to run this video through Windows Movie Maker to trim some fat, but for some reason WMM kept screwing with the aspect ratio, so I just posted it as-is. I intentionally died just to record the password for the stage, and then completed it.

I gotta say, the “Great Devil” is actually kind of a wuss, isn’t he?

Super Bomberman (SNES)

This entry is gonna be a little bit different. My video isn’t gonna show the entire game–instead it’s just the last regular level, the final boss, and finally the ending.

I had a lot of problems uploading a game this week. I actually wanted to do Animaniacs for the SNES, but Handbrake won’t rip my footage of that one for some reason–but it’ll do every other game on the same DVD.

So this week’s game is Super Bomberman. I actually plugged this in just to relax and take a break from the super-hard arcade games I had been tackling, and especially because this game made less demands of me–I was having trouble with my eyes at the time and that made fast-paced games like Thunder Force far more difficult than they really ought to have been.

I still made some boneheaded mistakes here and there (indeed, this very video shows a moment where I suffered a very-much-avoidable death) and wasn’t thinking straight, but for all that I managed to get far. I only used one continue (shown in the video), and that was in the next-to-last level.

Super Bomberman itself is something of a nostalgic classic for me, and my favorite game in the Bomberman franchise (Although, I have not played the vast majority of them). There’s not much to the game–you run around, you blow shit up, you go to the next level and you blow more shit up, and after awhile there’s a boss fight–but compared to the NES games (And the first TG16 one), Super Bomberman has more graphical variety, better music (especially that boss battle tune), and some much-needed tweaks to the formula (such as being able to find more than one powerup per level).

The storyline of this one is that there’s these two evil guys named Dr. Mukk and Mr. Black (I think) who have teamed up to take over Diamond City, where the Bombermen live. Personally I wouldn’t want to get in conflict with people who crap bombs out of their butts, but okay…

Most people don’t play Bomberman for its single-player campaign. It’s all about the multiplayer. But at least for this one, the single-player campaign is actually kinda fun (not like the NES ones, where you’ll go “Oh god please END!”)

One funny thing I’d like to note. In the manual, it says “If you’re playing battle mode and constantly getting creamed, you’re probably playing against a 12-year-old. Don’t. They’re notoriously harsh on new players.” Not that funny, but I appreciate documentation with a sense of humor.

So anyway, here’s the video. I actually started recording at Level 4-6, but due to how much hassle it is to upload multiple videos, I decided to just show the final level, final boss and the ending.

Besides, this way you get to hear that awesome boss music faster. (Hope you can hear it over the explosions!)

update on request (follow up to Western Animation post)

Figured I’d answer some questions that a recent commenter had. Because why not? 😉

First, MLP:Friendship is Magic… well, despite the things that happened, I still consider Season Two the weakest season. Three was kind of a step-up all around, with the only real clunkers being “One Bad Apple” and the terrible mishandling of what should’ve been the biggest event in the whole series.

When I first saw “Magical Mystery Cure” (the season three finale, for those of you who came here from the shmups forum and don’t give a damn about ponies), I felt kind of weird about it. I didn’t like it nor hate it. Now my mind has settled… I like the songs, but I don’t like the episode as a whole, pretty much because to me it spells bad things for the show’s future. I’m not gonna lie–the episode as a whole felt like it was basically a long commercial. I mean yes, the show exists mainly to raise awareness of the toys, but there are ways to do that which don’t amount to blatant shilling.

The thing that bothers me most though is that I feel like Season Four is going to either A) take away the wings, or else B) pretend the wings aren’t there, and have life being lived as normal. Both of which would break my suspension of disbelief and probably turn me away for good. It would be like if there was an episode of He-Man where Prince Adam revealed his double-identity and nothing major came of it. On the flip side though, if MLP totally runs with the wings and honestly takes the show in a new direction, then I might actually like it.

T4eight also asked what I thought of Korra – I haven’t watched it.

Do I play stealth games? I love Metal Gear Solid especially the first two (Sons of Liberty is one of my favorite games of all time, screw the haters). I tried to play Splinter Cell and Thief: the Dark Project but couldn’t get into them. Also, Penumbra is basically a stealth game and I love it to deathy death.

My favorite internet reviewer? The Happy Video Game Nerd Here’s his channel on Blip.

http://blip.tv/hvgn

The only issue I have with him is he rarely updates. Also, don’t be fooled by the “happy” in his name–outside of his reviews of Metal Storm, Mega Man 9 and a few other early ones, he’s rarely just mindless gushing. In fact he’s had three that come off as critical, although he avoids the trends that annoy me with other critics.

I mostly don’t like “Angry” reviewers anymore, mostly because their complaints tend to be petty, or else based on falsehoods or incomplete information. It always annoys me when I see a review for a game I like (Yeah, I know how that sounds) and the reviewer says things I know for a fact are wrong. Other times, it seems like they’re just saying “it sucks because its hard!” And that shtick gets tired after awhile. I will admit that The one and only AVGN himself is entertaining, but these days usually for his skits.

Now, onto recent stuffity stuff!

Yesterday I went shopping and got a truckload (by my standards) of things to do.

I picked up a new game, Twin Cobra for the Sega Genesis, which I found at a Goodwill-like store for $1. It came with the cartridge and the case. No manual. Also recently got a Sega CD game called Revenge of the Ninja, which is likely to be the subject of a post here in a few weeks.

Anyway, I then went to a local Gamexchange and didn’t buy any games, but did find several cheap anime. I decided to take a chance on the following:

* Detonator Orgun
* Fake
* Dominion Tank Police
* Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer (for only $5. Take that, Amazon marketplace price-jackers!)
* Tokyo Revelation (actually a Megami Tensei anime)
* Roujin Z

And finally, the first two volumes of Cardcaptor Sakura. This was the first thing I watched when I got home, and… I’m really sad I didn’t see this back when it was still relevant, because it’s adorable. It’s like Sailor Moon, except Sakura is basically responsible for all her own problems (unless there’s gonna be a shocking twist later in the series. I like to fly without spoilers).

I did notice, though, that the manga had been reprinted in four Omnibus volumes–these collect the entire series. In general, Manga is usually cheaper than anime, which at times makes me wonder why I always favor the animated forms of the stuff I like. Would be so much cheaper to just read it. But, eh.

I haven’t watched the other anime except for Tokyo Revelation yet. It was decent, and I imagine a more hardcore SMT fan would’ve loved it. These days, I have trouble enjoying RPGs of any stripe and prefer more fast-paced games, so I haven’t really been able to get into SMT in any of its forms.

Anyway, the next games I’m likely to post about are either Super Bomberman or else Animaniacs for the SNES. I’ll see you there!

Aladdin, the Anime version

Since I’ve been absolutely terrible about updating (for some reason I’ve been sucking at games lately), I decided I’d reward readers for their patience by sharing a personal treasure.

What you’re about to see is something my parents recorded for me off of TV when I was like three or so. It’s an English dubbed, anime version of Aladdin. I don’t know its proper name (I think its “Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp” or somesuch thing) so I’ve always called it Anime Aladdin. From what I’ve been able to discover, this was a part of a series of annual television specials by Toei which were all adaptations of classic literature or fairy tales. It was made in 1982.

As far as I know, it is currently not licensed nor available on DVD outside of Japan, so I’m uploading it here. If I ever receive word of an official, licensed release, the links will be removed and the video taken down. So, here’s the links:

PART 1 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfRPY5sU4tU
PART 2 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YR85RFOcXBQ
PART 3 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqfpg4UsTZE
PART 4 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dg0axLv_Vhs
PART 5 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwbBTwKKpMc

The obvious thing to do, I guess, would be to compare it to the Disney version, but I can’t. The Anime Aladdin follows the original story from the Thousand and One Nights, whereas Disney’s version is really more like Prince of Persia with a genie thrown in. So they’re apples and oranges.

I’ve always had a special place in my heart for this one-hour TV special. Partly its childhood nostalgia, and partly its because I always liked the story of Aladdin, the ultimate rags-to-riches tale. You watch it, and you’re like “wouldn’t it be cool if you found a genie who would do whatever you asked?” This anime version of the story also has a wonderful imagination going for it. Despite being by Toei (and therefore, done on a budget) it has awesome sequences like Aladdin’s journey through the cave, and the wizard’s tower at the end–a place that just completely throws logic to the wind.

Also, I always dug the ending credits instrumental, “Angel’s Flight”–which to my surprise, I’ve actually heard on the radio a few times (and it can be found on Youtube)!

Yes, there is some embarrassing dub dialogue and the characters are kind of flat, but overall, its a fun fairy tale, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.